A herb garden for your benchtop

This appliance delivers garden-fresh greens and herbs to where they’re needed most – your kitchen bench.

A herb garden for your benchtop
source: Rotofar

A new appliance called the Rotofarm aims to deliver garden-fresh greens and herbs where they’re needed most – your kitchen bench.

The soil free, zero-gravity indoor garden is being developed by biotech startup Bace, and is expected to roll out later this year. Rotofarm uses NASA-inspired zero-gravity technology, energy-efficient sunlight spectrum lighting, and smart app automation for easier, more efficient garden growth.

The unit boasts a large growing area while using only a tiny kitchen bench top footprint, and lets users grow pesticide and chemical-free vegetables, herbs and microgreens up to two times faster than in a traditional garden.

"We’re committed to releasing Rotofarm to the public in 2020 and helping to change the landscape of food and agriculture."
- Toby Farmer
Toby Farmer, Bace

It was invented by a 23-year-old Australian entrepreneur, Toby Farmer, who dropped out of his science degree to create the system.

“We’re committed to releasing Rotofarm to the public in 2020 and helping to change the landscape of food and agriculture,” he said.

As the winner of high-profile design awards, the Rotofarm was built on research showing that plants actually grow better in zero gravity environments – their stems grow taller and their leaves wider with less energy use.

All that is needed to get the Rotofarm budding is to plant pre-seeded pods into special plant slots, fill it with water and nutrients, and it can be monitored and controlled using the Rotofarm app.

Bace says Rotofarm needs only five minutes per week of care, and uses 95% less water than soil. The prototype was added to US crowdfunding website Indiegogo in March with hopes of raising $15,000 (Aussie dollars) to help commercialise the technology but instead pulled in more than twenty times that – over $450,000.

Bace says it expects to launch Rotofarm commercially later in 2020.

The tech

Inspired by research from NASA, the company says Rotofarm rotates precisely 360-degrees every 46 minutes. This rotation allows the plants to be suspended upside-down, eliminating the forces of gravity that typically restricts plant growth, according to Bace. Its says Rotofarm’s circular ‘farmbed’ provides a 1.6-metre (5.2ft) growing area while taking up only 38cm (15 inches) space on a kitchen benchtop. The homegrown produce floats within a BPA-free cylindrical bed of silicon, which is suspended on “a sturdy arm that rotates 180-degrees for maximum accessibility”.